Tennessee football will return to Neyland Stadium to open the 2021 season with a date against the Bowling Green Falcons on Thursday, September 2 at 7:00 p.m.
The Vols have had an action-packed offseason to say the least, landing multiple big time transfers such as Da'Jon Terry and Juwan Mitchell to give them more upside going into the fall. The Falcons have had a quieter offseason, but it has not been silent. Washington transfer WR Austin Osborne found a new home in Bowling Green, and Michigan State transfer TE Tommy Guajardo looks to make an impact with the Falcons as a redshirt freshman.
Bowling Green comes into the 2021 season looking to make some noise on both sides of the ball, as a 3-14 record over the past two seasons is indicative of how this team has performed in all aspects of the game under Head Coach Scot Loeffler.
What to Look for on Bowling Green's Offense
Running game. It essentially was the only bright spot for the Falcons in 2020. Lead back Terion Stewart was one of the most explosive freshman rushers last season, as he rumbled for 295 yards with four touchdowns in just five games. However, the Tennessee defense does not need to lose any sleep over that statistic, as the Falcons were only able to muster 326 total yards and 11 points per game. In addition, the Tennessee defensive line got much better in the offseason, as Caleb Tremblay and Da'Jon Terry are coming to Knoxville to join experienced players such as Matthew Butler and Darel Middleton who are not an easy test.
Bowling Green went 0-5 in the Mid-American Conference and did not lose a game by less than 25 points last season. The main reason for the Falcons' struggles was the defense, but another significant factor was an inexperienced receiving corps catching passes from a quarterback, Matt McDonald, who had a 1-8 TD-INT ratio and could not connect on half of his passes. The Falcons' receiving corps is still in rebuild mode and does not show any promise. McDonald will be another year older, but a quarterback who could only throw for 712 yards and only one score in five games as a redshirt junior does not sound too promising. Add in the fact that two starting offensive linemen, C Cameron Stage and OT Joe Ware, are unlikely to be Falcons come the fall, and it looks like the Vols defense will get a cake matchup to start the season at home.
What to Look for on Bowling Green's Defense
Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright, and Tiyon Evans will have the opportunity to have some fun in Week 1, as they will be facing off against the nation's worst run defense. Surely the Falcons will be able to better their D-line in some type of way heading into the fall, right? Wrong. It has only gotten worse for the Falcons. Three of their top four tacklers are transferring out, and DE Roland Walder, the team's best playmaker on the line, is also transferring. Although Bowling Green's defensive front seven has a bright spot in sophomore Darren Anders at MLB, and their secondary is bringing three experienced starters back, there is no muscle or speed on the line, and the lack of a pass rusher could lead to the Vols offense having a field day to open the season.
The Bottom Line
In what is likely a make or break season for Scot Loeffler, it does not look likely that the Falcons will get off to a 1-0 start, as Josh Heupel's first game as head coach in a full capacity Neyland should equal a sizable Tennessee victory to start the 2021 season.
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